Sunday, 25 September 2011

This Week at the London Improv Comedy Theatre

Tuesday 27th September
Austentatious are one of our very favourite groups, and they are so classy they should be called a school. From the group The Milk Monitors, comes an exceedingly good improvised novel based on the works of the nation's favourite author: Jane Austen. The audience name the novel, then the talented 'Monitors create the tongue-in-cheek, corset-ridden, highbrow world of Victorian literature for your entertainment.

In the second half, we welcome joke-trigger-happy shortform comedy from The Inflatables, still freshly squeezed from their Edinburgh debut. With a list of exciting, unpredictable games and scenes, these guys will keep you giggling at least until the end of the show. At least.

Tuesday 27th September
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 28th September
Then it's going crazy, with the first of our monthly Improv Comedy Showdowns. Every last Wednesday of the month, from now on, the amazing Catch 23 will sort the improv world into wheat and chaffinch.
3 teams take each other on to be crowned the champions, and winner stays on. It's like a football league, but with lower wages and higher stakes.

I'll let Professor Stephven Doctors, President of the Catch 23: Improv Comedy Showdown organisation explain the rest:

Wednesday 28th September
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 23th November
Finally, you should know about this because if you're interested you need to move quickly - tickets are selling so fast they might break a sound barrier.
On 23rd November we're doing a Doctor Who special. It's going to be totally amazing, with a line-up that'll have to be seen to be believed. All details are here [link] but if you like Doctor Who, don't miss out.
Actually, even if you're not a fan of the series you should still come because it is going to be magnificent. No exaggeration.


Sign up to email updates at

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Doctor Who-What-Where?... featuring The Ood Cast

Tickets have just gone on sale for one of the biggest nights of this London Improv season. Get them quick!... here's why:

On 23rd November, Whovians (that's Doctor Who geeks to you) celebrate Doctor Who Day; the anniversary of the first ever airing of Doctor Who back in 1963. We at London Improv are going to join them, because the doctor solves problems without the use of violence and improvisers like to do that too. Yep, that's the link we're going for.

Join us for a Doctor Who themed improv and comedy night. Opening with an hour of improvisation from some of the best Whovian/Improv crossover folk around. Including a surprise cast member from Series 6 of actual Doctor Who, from the telly, which is pretty lovely/ace. As well as that, the cast looks like something a bit over-exciting:
feat. Michael Legge (BBC 6MUSIC), Gemma Arrowsmith (Little Howards Big Question), Dylan Emery (Showstoppers), Adam Meggido (Showstoppers) and more...

Then we will welcome very special guests: Chris Alpha, Chris Sigma, Laura and Handy Andy from the hugely successful cult podcast The Ood Cast, the most innovative, weird and engaging Doctor Who themed podcast on the internet. Just ask the folks at Radio Rassilon, eh?... Eh?!

And.. well, basically, The Ood Cast have a massive fanbase so if you want to come and see something really special, you should click on that link and get yourself some tickets quickly. Those Whovian fans have been practically banging at the door and trying to get in for the last week.

It's really going to be brilliant. Like, a lot.

And with proceeds going to Cancer Research in memory of veteran Doctor Who actor Elizabeth Sladen, you'll being doing something nice for something nice, too. Aren't you nice?

Wednesday 23rd November
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 - proceeds to Cancer Research, buy tickets HERE
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.


Sign up to email updates at

Monday, 19 September 2011

This Week at the London Improv Comedy Theatre

Tuesday 20th September
Fresh(-ish) from their nearly sold-out Edinburgh Fringe debut, Music Box host their brand new, new show. The Music Box Cabaret features the finest musical and comedy performers money can bribe for an evening of entertainment you can't find on any other street.

The first half features a small gathering of hand-selected acts. This week we have musical comedy songstress JackyWood with her pet guitar,
followed by the marvelous boys of The RH Experience with their award winning brand of 'that nice chap next door' comedy.

Then in the second half, Music Box themselves take to the stage with their amazing Improvised Musical. Just a couple of suggestions from the audience and Music Box create an epic musical adventure, right there in front of you. It has to be seen to be believed.

"A pleasure and delight to behold"
★★★★★ - Remote Goat

"Left me helpless with laughter"
★★★★★ - Fringe Guru

Tuesday 20th SeptemberTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.


Sign up to email updates at

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Zen and Improv: Fingers Pointing at the Moon

“All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond. Even let him catch sight of the moon, and still he cannot see its beauty.”
— Zen Saying

Earlier this year I became obsessed with improv. I went from knowing of improv only through “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and a couple of ComedySportz shows to watching ten hours of the 2011 Hideout Improv marathon including a caffeine-fueled midnight Saturday to six on Sunday morning stint. I was hooked. It was hilarious, charming, and amazing. I’ve done a little acting (including some pieces that encouraged improvisation), some voiceover work, and been part of a comedy podcast that was primarily improvised. So I also had the feeling that, with practice, I might be able to do some improv myself, which brought me both joy and fear.

The thing that most intrigued me about improv was, “How do they do that?!” It was amazing, but clearly it could be done. I think it was the qualities of the improvisers when they were at their best that hooked me. They were generally not self-conscious, and when they were, they made a joke about it or used it in some way. They seemed calm, yet energetic. They were willing to take risks. They seemed to have an open channel to the creative part of their minds. They could laugh at themselves and had no problem playing ridiculous characters. They were open, shared control, and took care of each other. And perhaps most importantly, they were having a lot of fun. I was totally impressed. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that improvisers are like most humans with all the standard foibles and faults and a few that are particular to the breed as well. They were sometimes the opposite of all these positive qualities as well. However, they had a lot more access to those positive qualities than most people I know, including me. There was something here I wanted in addition to making comedy. I was totally intimidated, but I signed up for classes and got started.

As I started learning improv it began to remind me of something else. Many of these qualities I saw were similar to the qualities I had seen in meditation practitioners. Many of the lessons I heard in class, or read in improv books reminded me of things I had heard in dharma talks. I’ve been a pretty consistent meditation practitioner for a few years. I dabbled for many years before that. I practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master and peace activist.

Here’s the thing though, I’ve learned a lot from Zen practice, and I’ve grown as I’ve practiced. I know about the eight worldly dharmas—that sometimes things will go my way and sometimes they won’t, and that it’s best to accept both, but of course I often don’t. I know that how I look to others is not anything to be terribly concerned about, but of course I still am. I haven’t completely accepted that sometimes I will fail, and that failure is not only OK, but actually good if you learn from it. One of the things that most attracted me to improv was that improvisers at their best seemed to not just understand these lessons, but put them into practice. I watched them do it. Just like with Buddhist meditators, I wanted what they had.

I’ve come to see that the qualities that meditation and other mindfulness practices develop are some of the same qualities that improv develops. That is to say, improv can be a form of mindfulness practice. Please understand I’m not going to quit meditating now that I’m learning improv. In fact, improv is just extra motivation to meditate. However, I think improv is helping develop some mindful qualities more quickly than meditation does, at least in my case. After all, most of our life is not spent sitting quietly. Most of our life is interacting with people and doing things. (At least in my case.) Improv is like an active form of meditation.

In meditation we can achieve moments of perfect mindfulness, moments when we are completely present. Other, more active mindfulness practices seek to move that mindfulness into our daily lives. Walking meditation is one step (groan) beyond sitting meditation. It adds in a very common, simple activity, walking. We are now challenged to find and maintain mindfulness while conducting a simple activity. Another common mindfulness practice is mindful eating. We usually eat every day. This practice challenges us to bring mindfulness into this common and important activity. You can bring mindfulness into any activity. Improv can be a very active form of mindfulness.

As it turns out, I’m not at all the first person to notice the similarities between Zen and improv. In fact, some folks have been working on combining the two for a few years now. If you’re not familiar with the Zenprov podcast by Chicago Improv Associates, check it out.
I wish I had a grand unification theory of Zen and Improv, but alas, I am a beginning improviser and only a slightly more accomplished Zen practitioner. The Buddha loved lists as mnemonic devices, so I have a list.

Six Things Improv Can Teach You About Zen, or Vice-Versa

1) Be in the Present Moment

“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
It could be said with some accuracy that the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practice is to live fully in the present moment. The future isn’t here yet, and the past is gone. All we have is the present moment. If you’re missing the present moment, you’re missing everything.
I believe it was the third week of class when my improv teacher brought this up for the first time. Be in the present moment. Don’t be off thinking of what to do to be funny. Don’t be worrying about the scene you just did. Be right here, where it’s happening. An engaging and interesting scene doesn’t happen back there, or in a minute, it happens now.

2) Embrace Whatever Comes
The Buddha taught that clinging to a desire for things to be different than what they are causes suffering. Embracing whatever comes your way is a key to happiness and enlightenment. You won’t necessarily enjoy every minute of it, but the less you fight what can’t be changed, the less you’ll suffer.
In improv, we embrace what comes our way. This is the “yes” of “yes, and.” If our scene partner offers that we are a humpbacked leper, we lean over crookedly and pick at our sores. You are likely to be a very frustrated and ineffective improviser if you fight what comes your way.

3) Don’t Talk About It, Do It (It’s a Practice)
“You are not an observer, you are a participant.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
The Buddha taught a practice. It’s often an odd shift for those raised in western religions to get that Buddhism doesn’t involve belief. There’s no revealed truth. There’s a suggested practice. You practice so that you may discover truths for yourself. If you’re not practicing, you’re not following the teachings. Yes, there is a lot of spoken teaching, and written teaching, but most of that teaching centers around practice. Doing it is where it’s at.

I have yet to see an improv teacher lecture for more than 30 seconds or so. Admittedly, my experience is limited in this area, but I don’t hear about improv lectures. I hear about improv workshops. To learn improv, you do it. It starts with simpler practices (easy games) and moves on slowly, step-by-step, to more difficult practices (long form narrative, I assume, I’m not there yet.) And just as in Zen practice, you return to the simple things regularly. Warm ups are important. Both are (at least potentially) lifelong practices. You can always get better. Practice can always lead you to a new and interesting place.

4) Failure Happens (The Eight Wordly Dharmas)
The Buddha taught that life will give us both good and bad. In every life you will experience pleasure and pain; praise and blame; fame and disgrace; gain and loss. Happiness lies not in trying to only get the first part of each pair, but in recognizing that both will come.
In improv we accept that sometimes we will fail. (*BOW* “I failed!”) It’s just a normal part of the process. In fact, “failures” can be a great way to learn.

5) Mistakes are the Way to Getting Better/Suffering Leads to Enlightenment
“We made a mistake. That’s good. We just learned something.” — Keith Johnstone
“Make more mistakes faster to get better faster!” I don’t know where it comes from originally, but it’s something I hear improvisers say. I can’t tell you how many times when someone failed or was uncomfortable my improv teacher would say, “That’s what we’re looking for!” Our failures actually lead the way to our successes.
The dharma teaches that awareness of our sufferings can lead to their cessation. The sufferings themselves can serve as a roadmap. They let us know where to look and what to let go. I have experienced this at times myself. There can even be an attitude of joy at difficulties because they are an opportunity.

6) Have Fun
“I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
When we let go of our clinging we can realize that we already have everything we need to be happy.
Day one, level one, lesson one is, “Have fun.” As I hear at improv shows all the time, “If this looks like fun, it is…”

Fingers Pointing at the Moon
“Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
All teachings are fingers. Zen is a finger. Improv is a finger. They all point at the same moon. The moon is truth. I would describe the moon for our purposes as a place where your self is set aside so you can be present in the moment and allow your natural joy and intelligence to arise and come out to play, but this sentence is just another finger. To see the moon you have to look beyond the finger.
The thing is, the truth is out there, in life. There are an infinite number of ways to discover it. We are surrounded by bodhisattvas, by people who have discovered bits of the truth and are giving it to others. Some are MBAs, some are homeless people, some are Zen practitioners, some are improvisers.

- Ryan Hill, level 2 student at The Hideout Theatre, Austin, TX

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Television And Improv Sittin' In A Tree, Engaged In An Endless Series Of Mutual Misunderstandings

Did I really say that TV is dead? (yes, here) It sounds like the sort of sweeping statement I might steal from somebody smarter than I and then pompously pass off as my own.

Was I right? I don't think so, but I was probably in a bad mood. TV isn't dead, I work there for a start. My monthly salary is testament to its continued vitality. I suppose that I do view most of my traditional televisual content via the iplayer or similar mechanism. I rarely allow the tyranny of TV scheduling to rule my viewing habits. But I am not the nation and while there is a significant shift in how the UK (and beyond) consumes its TV content, TV is still the vector of choice for most. For now.

I think the point I may have ballsed up making was that we live in an age where TV companies aren't a requirement for making content now. Cheap cameras and youtube have opened doors for us all and recent shows like Felicia Day's The Guild are ideal examples of things we don't need a network for. Anyhow.

Jon makes some observations about TV's relationship with improvisation. I agree, it's a poor dynamic. Why do TV and improv seem such poor bedfellows. Let's look at a recent example. I have worked with many of the performers who participated in the BBC's Fast And Loose and know them to be daring, smart and funny improvisers, I was disappointed to see that they seemed very restricted by the format of the show. Now, I understand why those restrictions were put into place by the producers over the development process. Or I think I do, and isn't that the same thing? (On the Internet? Yes.)

Let us compare, in broad terms, the production process of a stage improv* show in London and that of a TV improv show (which might look like I'm talking about Fast and Loose, I'm not, I don't know much about the production process of that particular show. I speak in broad generalities).

The stage improv show might cost anywhere between £0 and £100 to put on for a night, depending on your venue, publicity costs, cast-subsidised T-shirts et al. What's the worst that can happen? If you get no audience, you're out £100 and an evening. If you have a bad show, you're probably not getting that crowd back again, but there's plenty more fish in your facebook group. You can put on another show, happy that your company's brand hasn't taken much of a hit. Good. This is how it should be, people should be putting on new improv shows and trying new stuff all the time, because the cost of failure is minimal or non-existent.

Now, TV. Well, you're gonna need a venue, that means a studio and cameras, plus people to operate the cameras, a director and gallery staff, someone to manage them. You'll need a warm up guy for the audience, floor managers to wrangle them and the talent. Of course, you'll need talent, at least one of whom is a "name" because the company needs as many selling points as possible. You need to rehearse the format, same as you would for a stage show, only this time you're paying people to do it. You've got to design not just a logo, but then get front and back title sequences made, plus theme music as well as stings, beds and more for mid show. Then there's the graphics for the show, the astons and animations, they need designing and building, so does the set and the storage costs for your equipment. Now at this point, I have no idea how much you've spent. But I'll bet we're somewhere over £100,000. (Does my argument fall down because I don't have actual figures? If you think it does, replace my speculative number with the phrase "a huge amount of money", thanks). That done, that money spent, how do you make sure your show isn't shit? It's improv, right, that's always a risk, you could have a bad show tonight. What's the worst that could happen? Well, let's say the TV show has a bad night, 2-3million people watch it, some of them don't come back, you get bad reviews in the press, you're the guy who spent £100,000 on a lemon. You're the guy whose boss wants to know how we make next week's show good.

You're a producer, not an improviser, so that's just a worst case scenario. You're already in a position (important phrase coming up) to demonstrate that you have put practical measures into play to prevent the show tanking. The important word is demonstrate. These measures don't have to work, but they have to look like they would have done. It's like maths, you may not get the right answer, but if the working in the margin looks good then you'll get some marks. Here's some of the measures I've heard reports of producers from around the world consider to tighten up improv ideas:
  • What if we pre-improvise the scenes, that way we can pick the good ones and perform them on the night?
  • Games are funny, so a bunch of games at the same time must be funnier. Funny's exactly like numbers right?
  • Maybe each show could be about three hours long and we'll edit together the best 27 minutes?
  • I like the guessing game, that never gets old. Why don't we just do that over and over.
  • Maybe the audience suggestions are too weird, why don't we prep funnier suggestions and set-ups?
  • These improvisers aren't working, lets get stand-up comedians to replace some of them. Those guys get lots of laughs.
Remember if you are a producer with an idea (good or bad) that someone else has come up with and you're not fucking with it in some way, you're not producing right.

That's my diatribe done with. I understand the two main reasons why Fast and Loose wasn't the show I wanted it to be.a, I wasn't in it** and b, it was produced by producers.

Which brings me to my main point, the cost of failure for a TV production company and an improv troupe are vastly different, almost opposites. Our stage show? If we fuck that up, who's gonna care? About twelve people? The TV show has huge amounts of time, money and energy invested in it and it's going to be seen by a lot of people. Its failure has significant consequences for everyone involved and I swear, to the producer who just wants to make good TV, it looks like these procedures help.

In short, I think improv will continue to have a tricky time on TV, until TV execs learn more about the nature of improv itself. Maybe that time will come? We may have to just keep making these shows, each iteration with a little less control and a little more freedom for the casts until a company is eventually persuaded to take a more substantial risk. I'm not holding my breath. But why do so many improvisers seem to really want there to be a TV improv show? Answer me with opinions and words please.

*I unwaveringly use the term "improv", if this bothers you because you prefer "impro" I would ask you to ignore the "v" and never explain to me the reasoning behind your preference.
**And if I was, you can trust I'd be doing whatever I was asked by the producers, I need money.

(Also, one tiny afterthought, while Drew Carey is far from the world's greatest improviser, I doubt he stole "Improvaganza" from my beloved RFT. There's a finite number of good improv-puns out there, I used Improvaganza in the past before I'd heard of Edmonton and the good work that goes on there. I am as guilty as he.)

(Edited - 15/09/2011 to remedy my own grammatical inadequacies)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Why Are We Pursuing A Tired Old Medium?

I'm glad there's nothing good on the box; it'd really cut into my comedy time.

'Whose Line is it Anyway?' was brilliant though, wasn't it? I spent many hours laughing at the likes of Greg Proops and Josie Lawrence making up some of the best comedy on TV in the 90's. And if you watch the repeats they are still brilliant, still standing up to the test of time. That's pretty rare; I was bored of 'Little Britain' after 3 episodes, but I suppose that's what happens when you do the same episode for three series' instead of making new stuff up for every show.
I digress (already).

Many's an hour been spent in conversation with fellow improvisers about how we could get a decent British improv show on our telly-boxes again. We thought we might get one earlier this year, but were sadly disappointed by the beeb. And more recently Channel Dave followed in those never-to-return-for-a-2nd-series footsteps. Still, the question is asked: How do we get a good impro show on telly?

The US has had some success quite recently. 'Drew Carey's Improvaganza' did well (despite stealing the name from Rapid Fire Theatre), but that's been cancelled now. If you include shows like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'Reno 911' you COULD say improv is almost mainstream over there. Almost.
And if you DO include those, then you could consider 5% of 'Outnumbered' was a fairly good British impro show.

But we're still losing comedy airtime to 'Mrs. Brown's Boys', so it's not going that well.

I was having a chat with Paul Foxcroft (Horse Aquarium) a while ago. He said something rather sensational but worth a nod,

"TV is dead."
- Paul Foxcroft

I thought then about when was the last time I actually regularly watched the expensive black rectangle in the corner of my lounge.
He was right, y'know. Apart from the occasional iPlayer catch-up of Dr Who, and the even fewer times when I remember I've downloaded the latest cool HBO series - my TV lays dormant at the edge of the room. If anything, I'm usually out anyway: rehearsing, watching or performing shows preferably.

Watching a show live on stage is rarely a completely bad choice. There's unbelievable amounts of good stuff out there, impro and other (lesser) stuff. And it's not even always expensive (London Improv nights are a fiver, as a rule).

Even if you accidentally end up at a bad show (eg: at the Dominion theatre), it's likely a social experience that you can laugh about afterwards with friends. A totally shite show can spawn the most joyful of discussions, and give you some valuable lessons about your own performances. Winner.

So I've given up on the idea of TV impro. Unless there's an influential, energetic, maverick producer out there willing to take the time to understand improvisation as an artform, it's a fruitless pursuit. And in a world where execs would rather commission another series of 'A Bunch of Morons Applying Fake Tan' it's highly unlikely.

The joy of impro is on the stage, so that's the thing to focus on. It's already going on pretty much every night (London-centric, sorry) if you look for it. I don't need to sit through half an hour of 'Fast And Loose' to watch Ruth Bratt or Dave Reed be stifled by oppressive producers, I can just go and see them play with glorious freedom in real life, and I get much longer in their company too. It's really very superior. A lot.

Unless it's from someone who cares about improv, the telly will continue to falter in it's pursuit of a successful improv show. And I'll join the legions of passionate improvisers who switch off in disappointment.

And that's coming from someone with a really nice telly, too.

(He says, blowing dust off an X-box.)

- Jonathan Monkhouse

Saturday, 10 September 2011

This Week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Oh yeah, we're back. Look at us, all back and stuff. We had a blast in Edinburgh, but now we're here in our home town again ready to rock the world of live entertainment. We're really very excited about the Autumn season of London Improv. We have some spectacular acts booked, including the fantastic Grand Theft Impro, the ever creative Music Box, and the remarkable Austentatious improvised Jane Austen novel.

This season also sees the start of the magnificent Catch 23: Improv Comedy Showdown league. Every month teams of improvisers will compete to win the hearts and applause of the audience, battling to stick around for next month as winner stays on.

We'll also be having a special Dr. Who celebration on Doctor Who Day (23rd November), featuring an extraordinary cast of improvisers and Dr. Who geeks; including some actual Doctor Who TV series cast. It's going to be quite marvelous.

But for now, this week. What's going on, eh?

Tuesday 13th September
New comedians and experienced stand-ups performing new material.
Featuring: Luisa Omielan (Compere), Constantine Pavlou, Tom Webster, Dave Waller, Dan Attfield, Wanda Keenan, Luke Spillane, Lydia Nicholas, Steve Roe, Gatis Kandis, Vanda Kvjatkovski, Wally Hammonde, Paul Rice, Jules Garnett, Bec Hill, Roderick Millar & Jon Davies.
And a special guest ex-standup doing it for the last time ever - all bitter and twisted 'n that.

And it's totally free!

Tuesday 13th SeptemberTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: FREE!Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 14th September
Double Canadian Comedy Award winner David Shore takes the stage with some hand-picked improvisers for an hour of brilliance, made up right on the spot. With a cast including Phil Whelans (Grand Theft Impro), Dylan Emery (Showstoppers), Susan Harrison (Bagpuss), Briony Redman (Horse Aquarium) and Fosters Award Nominee Cariad Lloyd, it's likely to be genius.

A totally improvised 1 hour comedy show about real life performed by award-winning actresses Katy Schutte (Funny Women finalist) and Rachel Blackman (Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear). Unlike lots of other improv shows, they don't play games or take suggestions from the audience, they just turn the lights on and start. If you've ever seen T.J. and Dave, you'll know the sort of thing: engaging stories, wit and fascinating characters.
★★★★★ - Remote Goat, ★★★★ - Fringe Review
"’s impossible not to be taken with Katy and Rachel’s talents"
- Chortle

Wednesday 14th SeptemberTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5.00Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Not a bad start to the season, eh? Multi-award winners and ultra-talented combos. We start as we mean to go on - only top quality shows here, oh yes. We're excited. You're excited (we can tell). Everybody's excited. See you there!


Sign up to email updates at

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

David Shepherd: A Lifetime of Improvisational Theatre

Hey everyone, have a look at this. It's a film about the life and work of David Shepherd, the co-founder of the first modern professional improvisational theatre, The Compass. The Compass featured actors such as Allan Arkin, Elaine May, Mike Nichols, Jerry Stiller, Severn Darden and improv guru Del Close. The Compass was succeeded by The Second City.

This feature film was made for the purpose of helping improvisors to know something about the roots of their craft and to see how one of its founders has spent a lifetime exploring improvisational formats. The film was commissioned by the Canadian Improv Games with the intent of making it free to watch and as available as possible to improvisors everywhere.Enjoy!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Impro at the Edinburgh Festival - a short documentary

Interesting short film about Impro from The Guardian website:

Brian Logan explores different types of improvisation on the Edinburgh fringe, and takes a Chaucerian workshop with the 'hard bardic' group The School of Night

He meets the Phill Jupitus Quartet and finds improv breaking out of its Whose Line is it Anyway? box: taking suggestions from the audience, channelling the spirits of Sylvia Plath or Chaucer - and even daring, sometimes, not to be funny.

Also featured are the brilliant School of Night and the energetic Noise Next Door.

Friday, 2 September 2011

RH: and friends

The Edinburgh Festival is already a distant memory as we launch ourselves towards a packed new season of improvisation. To kickstart it all off, the sprightly boys from The RH Experience are teaming up with a bunch of awesome improvisers for their second big RH and Friends show.

It's a totally FREE fun night of shortform comedy impro with loads of fun games and some very talented improvisers and musicians.

Conor Jatter - RH
Luke Spillane - RH
Tom Webster - RH
Jonathan Monkhouse - Music Box
Dave Waller - Marbles
Nicola Kidner - 8bit
Jinni Lyons - 8bit
Simon Veal - The Couch

So come along for a night of RH & Friends!

RH & Friends
Time: 7.30pm-10.30pm, 5th September
Venue: The Horse, Waterloo, SE1
Price: FREE!

Link to: Facebook Event

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Baby Wants Candy - A Competition

London Improv have a pair of tickets for each evening performance of Baby Wants Candy, 7-10th September 2011 at the Leicester Square Theatre for you to win.

Simply send an email with the subject line "London Improv Competition" to - include the night you wish to go and your suggestion for a title of a musical Baby Wants Candy could perform.
We’ll let you know after the weekend if you’ve won. Otherwise buy your tickets at BWC Tickets.

Don't know much about Baby Wants Candy? Read this for a bit and you'll have an idea of how cool they are:
"It was the summer of 2001 and I was at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in my life. Stepping out onto the Royal Mile it felt almost instantly like I’d come home. We have a lot of knife throwers and annoying student clown acts in my family.
And we all drink heavily.

I was operating sound for my student Musical Theatre Society’s production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and without the burden of performing and all its attendant nerve jangles, I found I had time to see a lot of shows. Originally, I had intended to see different productions each day but that was before I went, on a whim, to see Baby Wants Candy: The Improvised Musical. One hour of jaw-dropping, gut-busting, mind-blowing theatre later and I was hooked for the rest of the run.

Because they made it up.

Every night, every performance, an entire one hour musical spawned from a single audience title suggestion. Unbelievable. I had never seen anything like it. This mad, talented bunch of improvisors seemed superhuman to me on almost every level. The precision of their comedy timing, the beauty of their harmonies, the deft sweep of their narrative. Every night I wondered if this was the performance where it was all going to fail in a spectacular heap of broken melodies and loose plot ends. Every night they seemed to reach greater heights. It made Whose Line is it Anyway? look like a playground game.

I wanted to do what they did. I wanted to be them.

But this was 2001 and returning to London, inspired and evangelical about this new art form, I found no-one willing or able to help me build an improvisational nirvana in the heart of our nation’s capital. Perhaps they were there, the fledgling UK Impro community, but there was no way for us to find each other. The internet was a baby too, it lacked sophistication. It was basically just the US Military complex and Hamster Dance (link:

Ten years later, I feel part of a supportive community of UK improvisors of immense talent and ambition. I’ve spent years perfecting my Yes ands... & Who, What, Wheres?, my edits, walk ons & follow mes. I’ve seen shows of breath-taking skill and courage, amazing evenings full of laughter and daring. But for me, still, there’s nothing like Baby Wants Candy. There are acts who approach their musical dexterity and others who are arguably as funny, still others who are able to marshal character and plot with the same aplomb. But all together at the same time? While giving you sweets? No, siree, Bob.

There isn’t another act like them. The catalyst for my whole mad, brilliant impro odyssey. They are an institution and an inspiration and every improvisor should see them at least once.

So I guess it’s lucky, on reflection, that they happen to be in town for 5 shows."

- Chris Mead